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From the Editor - March/April 2019


If this were a perfect world, I wouldn’t be writing this editorial for the March-April issue of Chicagoland Gardening at all. I would just reprint the text of my favorite poem ever and call it a day.

In high school (where an elderly English teacher once assured me in all seriousness that I would be a famous poet someday), I came to love literature, especially poetry. My favorite poet was e.e. cummings, an American with a streak of anarchy who rejected punctuation and capitalization in his writing but embraced the wider world of nature and beauty and love. He was especially enthusiastic about spring, and so my favorite poem ever begins with the phrase “when faces called flowers float out of the ground …” Each of the three stanzas end with the line, “the mountains are dancing together.”

In all of literature has there ever been a better image for expressing joy than that?

So instead of listening to me gush about how wonderful it is to see the new sprouts of hellebore and the beginning shoots of crocus in my garden, just think for a while about the mountains dancing for joy.

And then move on to reading this new issue of Chicagoland Gardening, where we highlight many of the things we have to be joyful about. Our cover story features the incredible springtime flowers that are native to the upper Midwestern woods. Hidden gems, we might call them. Lovely for shade gardens. We also portray two home gardens. For our Gardens of the Pros feature, we visit Jim Nau, longtime employee of Ball Horticultural Company and current curator of archives and cultural advisor. We also gaze in admiration at the tulip extravaganza that Paul Duke displays at his home every spring.

For practical help, Jeff Rugg tells us how to handle those early arriving bare root roses and other woody plants while Michelle Walsh gives us the lowdown on starting plants from seed. Our Natives story offers extensive information on all the different sedges you can grow as an alternative to lawn. There are two stunning container designs using hydrangeas, and our Indoor Garden story is a hush-hush affair, highlighting plants for the bedroom and relaxing sleep. You will also get the lowdown on the city garden contest that will return this year for the third time. Think about entering.

But for now let’s think about spring and the lovely ending to that e.e. cummings poem:

all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky

all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea

(all the mountains are dancing; are dancing)

Can never have too many dancing mountains.

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questions

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

What is the best way to dig up, clean and store gladiolus and dahlias? What are the little white sacs on glad bulbs?

Our Russian sage (Perovskia) is full and bountiful but will not stay upright. Is there anything we can do? Is there a way to split some off when it has outgrown its space? Should it be trimmed back in fall or spring?

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